This is one of those moments – a moment that we must not let pass – that summons the conscience of our country.
Readers may recall, perhaps with some pain, that last week, we wrote on this page about the plight of our elderly, our most senior of citizens in the most dire of straits. Those words may have been difficult or uncomfortable to read, but they were even more so to write.
The theme of the editorial ostensibly was that Meals on Wheels itself is in need, in need of funds that enable it to prepare and deliver hot and nutritious lunches to about 180 of our elderly. They do this with a staff of two and more than 100 volunteers, all under the direction and, importantly, inspiration of the organization’s executive director Beulah McField, who has been doing this vital work for more than 19 years.
Cayman would not be far wrong if it thought of Ms. McField as its own Mother Teresa. If God sent Beulah McField to our elderly, He also most likely sent her the father/son team of Joe and Rob Imparato, who have been both tireless, and generous, in their support. Rob now serves as chairman of the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, and Joe (one of Cayman’s most accomplished and highly regarded businessmen) donates, advises and proselytizes on behalf of Meals on Wheels at every opportunity.
The purpose of this editorial is not to reiterate that Meals on Wheels itself is in need – of funds. Nor is it to sell tickets (although some are still available) to its annual fundraiser, dubbed the “Orange You Glad Gala,” which will take place tomorrow evening at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.
No, this editorial is offered with a higher purpose of encouraging, imploring, and, if necessary, even shaming our government into ensuring that no senior citizen, often the most lonely and the most frail among us, EVER goes to bed with hunger pains.
The stories that Ms. McField can relate about what she and her volunteers have encountered in providing food for the elderly would shame this island. We cannot – and our readers should not – ever erase from our minds the association between a missed meal and dog food. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s a fact.
We cannot avert our eyes – and our government should not divert our dollars – to lesser priorities when, in fact, there are no greater priorities.
Last year, Meals on Wheels asked government for an additional $88,000 in funding (it currently gets $52,000 annually) to expand its services across all of the districts in Grand Cayman.
Government gave them $8,000. That’s not a typo. $8,000.
This year, Meals on Wheels again submitted its request.
Government gave them nothing. That’s not a typo either. Nothing.
We would remind this government that we are talking here almost exclusively about Cayman’s indigenous elderly – not expatriates, “paper Caymanians,” or holders of permanent residence. Those in the greatest need are literally the sons and daughters of Cayman sand and soil.
Of all of the various iterations of “Caymanians” that exist today, none is more purely “Caymanian” than those who Meals on Wheels is feeding every day, or the many more it is not feeding (at least 160 needy have been identified in North Side and West Bay) because it has neither the funds nor the food preparation facilities.
This is simply not tolerable in a country where government revenues each year approach $1 billion. We’re talking the financial equivalent of “table scraps” here.
If ever the “lion were to lay down with the lamb,” that is if ever Premier Alden McLaughlin were to work cooperatively with Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, it ought to be on this issue.
Not only should government fund fully the needs of Meals on Wheels, it should do so generously (no $8,000; no crumbs please).
A government that willingly and callously ignores its own people, especially its hungry elderly, may well be preparing for a meal of its own. Appropriately, it would be called “The Last Supper.”